The Heart of Worship


But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Rick Warren opens Day 10 of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, with these provocative words, “The heart of worship is surrender, surrendering to God. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to Him, not out of fear or duty, but in love . . . True worship, bringing God pleasure, happens when you give yourselves completely to God. Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about. This act of personal surrender is called many things: consecration, making Jesus your Lord, taking up your cross, dying to self, or yielding to the Spirit. What matters is that you do it, not what you call it. God wants your life, all of it. Ninety-five percent is not enough.”

The Larger Catechism of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church asks this question in regard to worship, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.”

William Temple, a British churchman wrote in 1941 about the nature of worship, during one of civilization’s darkest hours: “The world can be saved . . . by one thing only, and that is worship. For to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God”  (The Hope of the World).

What do all of these descriptions of true worship have in common? They remind us that we are to glorify God, not just on Sunday mornings, but every day that follows  in all that we do.

The Samaritan woman that Jesus instructed at the well believed that the true worship of God was defined by where it took place, on Mount Gerizim, a mountain top in Samaria. The Jews, on the other hand, believed that true worship could only take place at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus said they were both wrong. True worship, both then and now is worshiping God, “in spirit and truth.” The time and the place is not an issue with God (John 4:1-26).

The Greek word for worship in the New Testament is the compound verb proskuneo. Pros gives direction and means “to or toward” something and kuneo means, “to kiss.” One commentator describes the word like this, “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand.” You pet owners can relate to that visual.

Proskuneo appears over forty times in the New Testament and carries with it the obvious idea of intimacy and adoration. Interestingly, the first time we see the word is in the gospel of Matthew after the birth of Christ when the three wise men from the east came to Bethlehem searching for “the newborn King of the Jews” while stating, “we have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2). True worship then, for a believer, is an act of adoration performed by us toward God. He is the sole recipient and object of our attention. A great word picture isn’t it?

Mike Pilavachi was the pastor of Soul Survivor Church in Watford, England. After he and his fellowship moved in to their new church, with their expensive new state of the art sound system and comfortable chairs, he sensed that something had changed during their worship services. He had a hard time putting his finger on it until he realized through prayer, that he as well as his congregation were just going through the motions of worship in their new surroundings.

The music was the same and “we were singing the songs, but our hearts were far from God. We had become connoisseurs of worship instead of participants. We had made the worship team the performers of worship and ourselves the audience. We had forgotten that we all are the performers of worship and God is the audience. We asked ourselves individually, “What am I bringing as my contribution to the worship? The truth came to us suddenly. Worship is not a spectator sport, it is not a product molded by the taste of the consumers, it is not about what we can get out of it, it’s all about God.”

So Pastor Pilavachi decided they needed to do something drastic about it before it was too late. He asked the Praise Team to stand down for a season and decided that if no one brought a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15-16) to the service, they would spend the time meeting in silence. It didn’t take long. Soon people were gathering in circles, singing acapella, reading Scripture, saying prayers, thanking and praising God, and just as suddenly as the Holy Spirit had left their worship services, He returned.

The climax came when the Praise Team came back to their first service and their very first song was “The Heart of Worship” that had been written by their leader, Matt Redman, while the group was silent. It was a song of repentance to God.

Take a few minutes and listen to this beautiful song and let’s join our hearts in repentance for what we may have allowed worship to become in our churches and our personal lives:


We must also remember that worship is not something that only happens in the context of music, singing, or vocal expression. The heart of worship encompasses every part of our lives as we acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-11). Let me close by reminding us of this heavenly scene recorded by the apostle John who was allowed a glimpse of heavenly worship:

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessings and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb” (Revelation 5:13).

Now that’s the true heart of worship. Why don’t we begin right now? Maranatha!

scan0002To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better.

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